Having to work harder and act like 'robots', with little scope for personal initiative, are the chief reasons for declining job satisfaction in the UK, according to research sponsored by the Economic and Social Research Council.
Feelings of insecurity, overly-high expectations and people being unable to find work to match their qualifications are largely dismissed as factors in the study, led by Francis Green from the University of Kent.
His team found no evidence to back suggestions that the dull outlook of workers was due to successive generations having ever higher expectations from their jobs and being disappointed by the realities of employment.
The investigation, which also looked at other European countries and the US, signals a falling sense of well-being among UK workers.
In the UK, between 1972 and 1983 there was a small downward trend in average job satisfaction.
There is little data for much of the 1980s, but during the 1990s three separate sources reported significant declines.
Green said: "In the UK, all of the fall in overall job satisfaction between1992 and 2001 could be accounted for by people having less personal responsibility and use of initiative in their work, combined with an increase in the effort required.
"It was implausible to blame job insecurity, because over this period unemployment had fallen and other evidence suggested a falling sense of insecurity during the latter part of the 1990s."